Menstrual Activist: Jennifer Weiss-Wolf
Though celebrities of the menstrual activism world aren’t household names, Jennifer Weiss-Wolf has earned her place at the top as a menstrual equity superstar. Her fight against the tampon tax has launched the conversation into the public sphere and amassed many supporters. Her work has been featured across a multitude of major American news outlets.
Most notably, Jennifer is the author of Periods Gone Public (Oct. 2017), which was “the first book to explore periods in the current cultural and political landscape and to investigate the new wave of period activism taking the world by storm.” Her book is a political call to action, calling for the end of the stigmatized period talk and sexist tax on tampons and menstrual products as “luxury items.” Through this work, Weiss-Wolf pushes for menstrual equity on a political level, calling for enacting laws that ensure access to affordable menstrual products to allow menstruating people to go about their lives hygienically and safely.
Many people don’t give much thought to the plight of menstruating people, especially not to the people who menstruate but can’t afford products. The idea of “menstrual equity” is that menstruating is not a choice, and people should not be financially put out by needing to cater to their biological needs. The movement for menstrual equity hopes to destigmatize periods and make access to menstrual products a basic right, especially in government-operated facilities, such as prisons and shelters. When people cannot access or afford menstrual products, they experience an immediate disadvantage compared to people who can afford products and people who do not menstruate. They also face hygienic and safety risks as they are forced to reuse soiled products or free bleed into clothes that they have to continue wearing.
A source of inspiration for Weiss-Wolf was when she met with menstruation activists in India, where only 12% of the female population have access to menstrual products. She also learned that, due to cultural and religious superstitions, many women are ostracized during their periods, cultivating a culture of shame and embarrassment around periods. From this encounter and her work with the activists, Weiss-Wolf brought back to the U.S. a fresh perspective on what global menstrual inequity looks like and incorporated it into her fight.
As Jennifer is at the forefront of change, her work has been featured in The New York Times, NPR, NBC News, Cosmopolitan...just to name a few. She often gives interviews and op-ed pieces to spread her message to the public and makes appearances on popular podcasts. In partnership with Cosmopolitan, she spearheaded the “No Tax on Tampons”change.org petition, which had more than 60,000 signatures.
When she isn’t spreading her menstrual equity message, Jennifer works as a lawyer with expertise in the non-profit sector. She is the former Vice President for development at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and the current inaugural Women and Democracy Fellow.